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Current Location: Chicago, IL

06.16.10

Price of beer in a bar: US$7 will get me a 32 ounce mug on the sidewalk patio at the lesbian bar around the corner.
Song currently stuck in my head: My Girls, Animal Collective off of Merriweather Post Pavilion

A week or two back I bought up 2 ultra-lightweight moisture wicking shirts (polyester with or without a tiny percentage of lycra). These appear to have been giveaways at some 5k event and I picked them up for less than $2 a piece at my local thrift store. I’m very happy about this, though I’m also a little pissed that I paid a combined $50 or $60 for two similar shirts of vastly inferior quality a couple of years ago; fuck exoficio, that shirt is crap. It’s arguably better than the other, though, a Columbia T shirt with a mild sheen that kind of implies traveling in search of a West German night club in 1987 (for my younger readers, there used to be two Germanys. They were next to each other.).

We also picked up some decent snokel equipment for the trip. The top and spit valves on the snorkle are non-negotiable for me, both becuase of my rational dislike for choking on seawater and my irrational fear that a wasp is going to fly down my snorkle while I swim. This gear will allow us near unlimited exercise and entertainment for little to no cost in some of the places where we’ll be hanging out.

We’re traveling with the intention of finding a new home, or rather exploring the possibilities of what ‘home’ can be. We both love Chicago and know that we may not find anywhere that we prefer, but at heart we’re comparison shoppers. Our plan is to spend a month or two in each of a handful of different cities in a handful of different regions of a handful of different countries in Central and possibly South America. We’ve ruled out The Dominican Republic for the time being, due solely to practical considerations (tourist visa renewal, cost of travel, etc). It may re-enter our itinerary in the future.

These emails may precede the blog posting (https://mondayorsomething.wordpress.com/) as I’m concerned about privacy and I’d rather the people of a given town not have access to my impressions of it until after I’ve left it. Public access to my uncensored thoughts could put me at a disadvantage, for instance when haggling for rental property. I’ll try to provide as detailed of an account as possible with a strong emphasis on cost and quality of living, right down to the numbers. Similarly, I will continue to post info to the blog that isn’t included in these emails. So if all of this interests you, check out or subscribe to the blog.

So here’s how we’ve organized our possessions, at least mentally, for the trip. We’ve broken everything down into 4 tiers:

Tier 1: The stuff we’re hauling around with us as we bump from town to town. I’ll provide a detailed breakdown of this in the future, it should be about one large backpack’s worth.

Tier 2: Stuff that we would have brought if space and weight weren’t an issue. This includes additional climate-appropriate clothing that we didn’t include in our packs and some hard-to-replace items that would be handy to have while living in Latin America (like my pressure cooker). These items will catch up with us if we find one place that we’d like to stay for a year or so. This collection will probably be slightly larger than tier 1, maybe one and a half to two large bags’ worth.

Tier 3: Cold weather gear for visits to cold weather places. I have a bag at my parents with long underwear, sweaters, etc. and a smaller collection of similar items will stay at the girlfriend’s parent’s place. Basically, at my parent’s place I need to be able to ice fish, which I haven’t done for years and really miss. One duffel bag went to my parents, about one third as much will go to the girlfriend’s parent’s place.

Tier 4: Items to store here in Chicago. These are photo albums and other keepsakes, my desktop computer and some additional clothing to fall back on. All and all I think this tier will fit in two 45 gallon storage tubs, probably less.

Beyond that, everything must go.

To get down to this abridged collection we’ve had to divest ourselves of one serious metric assload of stuff. We combed through all of our items and set aside stuff that hasn’t been used in years. Then we did it again. Multiple times. We all seem to have some mental block that doesn’t allow us to notice the grocery bag full of unused mouse pads or the 18 gallon tub of wires sitting right in front of our eyes. They just become part of the background until the 4th or 5th time that you’ve turned the apartment upside down and the whole scene is robbed of the familiarity that these items rely on for camouflage. Eventually these things end up sold (half.com, craigslist, yard sales), given away, traded for more travel appropriate items (the girlfriend has been hosting clothing swaps) or donated to a thrift store. I haven’t bought soap in a roughly a year because I have a huge collection of hygiene products that I’m now trying to use up. I think most of them were gifts, make of that what you will. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a bottle of cologne in my life, but I have 10 of them, mostly from high school.

If you’re like me, you start out this process trying to maximize the price for each sold item and searching for just the right friend to give every ‘treasured’ possession to (“I mean, really, who will love my classic Simon… who will REALLY appreciate it”).

Yeah, at this point I’m ready to light a match and not even stick around to watch it burn.

There’s a similar situation in the kitchen, where food that has been on the shelves for years is suddenly getting put into play as we try to ride as close to the shelves as we can (coincidently, this often does involve lighting a match).  Obviously it would be easier to just throw this shit out, but I really hate to do that.

Next time I hope to remember to talk about vaccinations and the diseases that I’m less likely to die from for having gotten them.

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